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Homemade herbal medicines: according to Corinna Wood, whipping up tinctures and infusions is easy as pie.

Tinctures (alcohol extracts) and infusions (concentrated, water-based teas) are my favorite ways to take herbs internally--after eating them as food, of course! The simple methods both involve soaking plant material, whether leaves, flowers, roots or seeds, in a liquid. Which liquid depends .on what you want to get out of the plant. Tinctures are often used for acute or specific concerns, while infusions, when made part of your regular diet (just like "an apple a day"), gently strengthen the body. Keep in mind that there's knowledge to be gained as to how or when to use herbal medicines along with how to make them. If you have serious medical concerns, don't hesitate to consult a health professional.

Tinctures

Tinctures are quick and convenient: they're appropriate for acute ailments and first-aid situations. And, they have a shelf life of three to five years or more.

Alkaloids, as their name suggests, are plant constituents that dissolve easily into alcohol. Plants with important alkaloids also frequently have other constituents that dissolve more easily into water. For this reason, I tincture plants in equal parts alcohol and water. That is what is meant by "100-proof" alcohol: 50 percent alcohol and 50 percent water.

To make your own tincture, chop fresh plant material, pack it into a glass jar, and cover it with 100-proof alcohol. Ideally you want a 1:2 ratio of plant weight to alcohol volume. If you have six ounces of dandelion roots, for example, use 12 fluid ounces of alcohol. If you use leaves, pack the container tightly until filled.

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A tincture will only be as potent as the plant material in it. If the plants are dried, they are further removed from the source and don't tincture as well. Try to complete the whole process, from field to jar, the same clay.

Label your jar with the contents and the date and let it sit for six weeks. Then, strain out the plant material, and voile! You have enough homemade tincture to fill and refill a one- or two-ounce dropper bottle many times over.

Tincture dosages are usually expressed in drops, and. a dropper contains about 25 drops. When taking tinctures, it's best to dilute them in water or juice. If you're concerned about the alcohol content, you can use warm tea instead, as much of the alcohol will evaporate out with the steam.

Infusions

Infusions extract nutrients such as minerals, vitamins and chlorophyll. Taken daily, they're nourishing and tonifying.

Because they can only be left for a few hours, meaning there's not as much time for the liquid to penetrate the plant's tough ceil walls, infusions are best made with dried herbs. During the drying process, an herb's cell walls are weakened. The contents of those cells, when soaked in water, easily come out into the solution. That's why fresh leaves will barely color a tea while dried ones will often turn it a dark, rich hue.

To make an infusion, place one ounce (about a cup) of dried plant material into a quart mason jar. Fill with boiling water, cap, and let steep for four to six hours or overnight. You can add a pinch of mint for flavor. Then, strain out the plant material and enjoy one or more cups daily. With most tonic herbs, the dosage need not be precise. These are foods; help yourself!

Infusions keep for several days in the refrigerator. You can drink them warm or cold, sweetened or plain. The important thing is to make them a part of your daily diet, and for that, they need to be something you enjoy.

Try some herbs out yourself. It feels good to make your own herbal medicine and to make herbal food your medicine! My favorite infusion herb is nettles, which is nourishing for the adrenals and kidneys, as well as the hormonal and immune systems. My favorite tinctures to have on hand in the family medicine chest include the renowned immune tonic echinacea, as well as St. John's wort and motherwort.

Corinna Wood is the director of Red Moon Herbs--an area herbal medicine business that has made potent extracts from common, local plants since 1994. Corinna offers classes, including Wise Woman Fundamentals of Herbalism, through the Appalachian School of Holistic Herbalism; she also founded the Southeast Women's Herbal Conference, October 2-4 in Black Mountain, NC. For more information, visit www.redmoonherbs.com or www.sewisewomen.com, or call 828-929-0777.
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Title Annotation:HERBAL HEALING
Author:Wood, Corinna
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2009
Words:739
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